DESTROY ALL MONSTERS
Japanese Title: Attack of the Marching Monsters
Directed By: Ishirō Honda
Written By: Ishirō Honda & Takeshi Kimura
American Distribution By: American International Pictures
In the Godzilla film series, I doubt that there is one that does not stick out as clearly in the minds and hearts of the fans as Destroy All Monsters does. It is a film that had never been attempted before and though another had been made in the form of Godzilla: Final War, that film was lacking the heart of its predecessor. That and in all honesty, I thought Final War as being a wee bit over-the-top in Godzilla’s prowess and coming from me, who proudly proclaims him the prime predator of preposterously proportioned pests, that’s saying something.
Of the Showa era of Godzilla films, Destroy All Monsters had the largest budget and it would need it too what with it containing a whopping total of eleven monsters in all. In truth, Destroy All Monsters was intended to be the last Godzilla film of the era, if not entirely, but thankfully it became quite the sensation and Godzilla came back to the silver screen for six more films before “retirement.”
The film itself is, technically speaking, the “last” of the Showa era of films as it takes place, chronologically speaking, in the “distant future” of 1999 where all of Earth’s surviving kaiju have been corralled onto the small island chain of Ogasawara Island, which has since been renamed by the populace as “Monster Island” or “Monsterland.”
The kaiju of Earth live in relative peace on the island and are kept there in a variety of methods depending on the kaiju in question. Some, like the enormous spider Kumonga, are incapable of swimming or flight and thus are permanently trapped on the island. Others like Rodan or Varan are capable of flight but are repelled by extremely powerful force field projectors limiting their mobility in the air to a tight bubble around the island.
Those capable of swimming (like Godzilla and Mothra in her larval form) are repelled by a series of specialized gas canisters that… honestly, I don’t know precisely what they contain. For Mothra, it look like some form of pesticide or anti-insect repellant whereas Godzilla’s seemed to contain something that either A) neutralizes radiation or, more likely, B) gases capable of drastically lowering his body temperature.
Just an interesting FYI, that’s actually how they managed to bring Godzilla and his adopted offspring Minilla to the island in the first place.
Unfortunately, an apocalypse of epic proportions begins in the form of an attack on the island that knocks out all of the scientists in their hidden laboratory beneath the ocean and the monsters as well. When communications are at last re-established at the island, the UNSC discovers that the island has been nearly destroyed and the monsters are now on the attack across the world in a level of unprecedented coordination.
Rodan soars over Moscow, obliterating everything in his path as he traverses the skies at Mach speed. Baragon and Gorosaurus team up to destroy Paris with the burrower destroying the catacombs beneath the city while the last of the dinosaurs emerges from under the Arc de Triumph. Mothra makes a nuiscane of herself in the streets of Beijing while Godzilla appears at the shores of New York City and sets the skyscrapers of the Big Apple ablaze in nuclear fire.
Captain Yamabe and his crew of the specialized spaceship Moonlight SY-3 are ordered to return to Earth and investigate the base on Monster Island in hopes of finding the cause of the worldwide monster attack. There they discover the scientists, including the dear captain’s significant other, not only alive and well but under the complete control of the Kiilakians, a race of aliens hailing from the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter.
The team manage to escape by the skin of their teeth and manage to successfully capture the lead scientist of the island as well. Unfortunately, the man commits suicide but in death, he proved to have overcome the alien’s control for in the ensuing autopsy, the UNSC discovered the means by which the Kiilakians control humans and kaiju alike. Using the miniature device to their advantage, the UNSC manages to locate and destroy the miniaturized projectors hidden and scattered across the globe. These projectors are quite small, no bigger than a coconut, and are found in all manner of places and objects. One was actually in fact found in a coconut. Their range though is nothing short of astounding, being able to project the mind control signal in a 2,000 km radius.
Unfortunately, the Kiilakians press their advantage while they still have it, unleashing not one but four monsters to attack Tokyo. Rodan descends from the skies while Manda encircles the city in her massive coils. Mothra appears from the subways and Godzilla is the mere icing on the cake and Tokyo is all but destroyed completely by the four kaiju who are eventually repelled.
Captain Yamabe’s girlfriend shows up at the UNSC base to deliver the ultimatum by the Kiilakians, that we as a species must submit to their control and the monsters will be returned to Monster Island and corralled there. She tells them of the Kiilakians having a base at Inzu before her lover tackles her and manages to free her from the mind control as she was given a pair of earrings for receivers rather than a direct implant in her head like her fellow scientist.
Eventually, and boy do I mean eventually, Earth manages to locate the source of the control waves and the Kiilaks’ base on the moon is destroyed and with its destruction, the monsters come under Earth’s control. Together, the monsters are made to attack the Kiilakian base on Earth, located in the heart of Mount Fuji but are interrupted by the one monster that the Kiilakian’s still have under their control.
Though all ten of Earth’s monsters are present at the scene, only a small handful of them take the fight to King Ghidorah. Godzilla of course leads the fray with his spiked buddy Anguirus following close behind with a surprising aid found in the form of Gorosaurus. Rodan offers support with his expansive wings, knocking King Ghidorah off balance while Kumonga and Mothra both try to ensnare the three-headed dragon with their webbing.
This fight is as long as it is brutal with King Ghidorah coming out the worst for it throughout the fight. Eventually, the King of Terror is slain one head at a time. The first head to fall, the right, has its throat torn apart by the fangs of Anguirus while its opposite head has its neck crushed beneath Godzilla’s feet. The last central head is unable to take the horrific feedback of its fellow heads’ being slain and is felled by Godzilla’s son Minilla via a smoke ring.
… Wow. Just… wow. The tales they’ll tell of the King of Terror’s penultimate demise at the hands of a hatchling kaiju breathing a cloud of smoke…
To wrap up this long summary, the aliens are wiped out, the monsters willingly return back to Monster Island and life, as usual, goes on. Overall, this movie is certainly not the worst of the Godzilla films but… really, aside from the awesomeness of seeing multiple kaiju in a single scene, particularly that climatic battle at the end, there’s really not much for it.
The aliens invading earth via controlling monsters was done previously, and personally much better, in the film Invasion of the Astro-Monster. There, the aliens at least had something of a reason for attacking Earth and were even believable as a cold and deadly threat. The Kiilakians though… they just don’t carry that kind of terror with them and even when their inherent weakness and true forms are revealed, it makes them even more pathetic. Kiilakians are, apparently, a race of heat-sensitive metallic-skinned worms that can only assume, and maintain, a female humanoid form with extreme temperatures but once that temperature drops to a certain degree, they revert back to their base form.
The human side of the story, while quite prevalent to the kaiju side of things, is frankly speaking rather boring for the most part. Honestly, save for the first time that I watched the film I can’t help but skip ahead to the more important parts of the film, those being of course the monster scenes.
That is really sad for a Godzilla movie to have the human element be so lackluster but then again, it could be more because there just wasn’t anything to emotionally invest in them. Most of the human characters in these types of films, you can’t help but feel something for, be it a scientist trying to understand the incomprehensible or a soldier trying to topple the unstoppable, there always someone with heart behind them.
The kaiju side however delivers itself in spades though I do admit the number of kaiju present in the film is somewhat questionable. In the case of some monsters like Varan or Baragon, the original costumes had either been destroyed or were badly damaged to a point that they couldn’t be shown completely on screen and so were reduced to a mere cameo appearance.
The idea of monsters being corralled into a single place before being set loose upon the world, intentionally or accidentally, is not altogether a wholly unique idea to the Godzilla franchise or films as a whole. In point of fact, there are quite a lot of films that follow a similar premise to this one though the scale of the monsters involved and the purpose behind their containment varies.
In the case of Destroy All Monsters however, the idea of us, as a species, managing to corral all of these monsters is, at this time, incredibly unbelievable. It might be something that can be accomplished with “normal” kaiju like Gorosaurus or Manda who have no special powers aside from their massive size, but for the likes of a creature like Godzilla, a living, breathing natural disaster?
Not a chance.
As I said previously, the largest number of kaiju on screen occurs during the climatic battle with King Ghidorah and I can honestly go whole pages about how amazing a fight that was but I won’t. Honestly, I can’t put to words what is best seen on an actual screen so, if you can find it, go forth and watch Destroy All Monsters. The human element may be lackluster but the kaiju side lives up to the name!